A federal judge last week agreed to set John Hinckley Jr. free.
Yep, the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan and slay White House press secretary Jim Brady and two law enforcement officers could be his own man come June if no logical, legal challenge overrules U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman, a 1994 Clinton appointee.
Mr. Hinckley, in case you’re too young to remember or care, was a pretty twisted guy when he perched himself outside the Washington Hilton Hotel near Dupont Circle in Northwest D.C. on March 30, 1981. He pointed a .22-caliber Rohm RG-14 and fired six times.
One of the bullets ricocheted and hit Reagan in the chest, and another struck Brady in the head, partially paralyzing him.
Reagan didn’t know he himself had been shot — at first — and later joked with first lady Nancy Reagan, “Honey, I forgot to duck.”
Nothing’s funny, though, about the violence plaguing D.C. neighborhoods, and gunshots are common occurrences. But how can that happen with mixed messages?
Mayor Muriel Bowser, for example, vowed last week to hold gunmen and other criminals accountable. Yet a federal judge is following the advice of the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health, which the mayor oversees, and other health officials to consider Mr. Hinckley‘s release.
No ankle bracelet or GPS monitor.
No therapy sessions.
No social media prohibitions.
No justice for Brady, whose death in 2014 was ruled a homicide.
Mr. Hinckley, who is now 66 and hasn’t lived on his own in 40 years, can continue to hustle his art and music and promote himself on YouTube.
All without fear of being held accountable.
Indeed, that’s what today’s gunmen are seemingly after: Freedom to break the law.
Before Brady died, Mr. Hinckley didn’t face any homicide charges. The homicide ruling by the medical examiner changed his circumstances and logical legal challenges should reflect as much in the coming months.
(A D.C. jury found Mr. Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity, and he has been under court-ordered psychiatric care since then.)
Lawmakers must do the right thing and send the right message to today’s criminals: Take a life, pay the price.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.